What a world Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana has been born into. Should you wish to see hubris and cynicism dressed in its most gaudy, absurd raiment one should look no further than New York’s annual Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Ball. Before the relentless rise of social media the Met Ball was an occasion when fashion and philanthropy rubbed shoulder pads over a discreet gala dinner.
Now the Met Ball red carpet rivals the Oscars as a carnival of self-congratulation and promotion whereby the animals come in two by two: the fashion designer and the celebrity they gussied-up for the evening. Safe to say there might be a whiff of competitiveness behind the scenes as the limousines queue like a Mafia funeral along 5th Avenue.
We’ve seen some frights at recent Met Balls that had gala ringmaster Anna Wintour reaching for her stun gun before the offending female set foot on the red carpet. But the ladies of stage, screen, pop and fashion surpassed themselves with this year’s Chinese theme. Quite where so much nudity fits in to Chinese culture outside of Old Mary’s Tart Shop in downtown Kowloon I have no idea.
Having just seen Imelda Staunton tear up the Savoy theatre stage as Momma Rose in Gypsy reminded me that burlesque had always been at the bottom rung of the the show business ladder. Burlesque was a world of shady ladies past their prime performing the bump and grind to woozy trumpet wails and sleazy drum licks. As the tenor sax wailed its waa-waa-waa overripe broads shed elbow length gloves and layers of slipper satin, silk stockings and rhinestone unmentionables. I rather like burlesque but it defies belief that the wealthiest and most successful women in show business today feel compelled to wear get-ups that even the most desperate strip woman in Vegas would think twice about.
Is it terribly empowering of Beyonce to wear a transparent nude Givenchy dress that leaves nothing to the imagination and makes good taste join the ranks of the unemployed? The lady paraded her bum on the red carpet like a Bomb Alaska round the Savoy Grill. The pose was pure Linda Lovelace. Strike one she’s a Sadie (married lady). Strike two she is a multi-millionairess who isn’t setting a good example to the ‘sistahs’ that she still has to sell her tail to get attention. Strike three where can she go once the seventh veil has been dropped?
As tacky as Beyonce’s dance of the seven veils might be, one can always rely on Kim Kardashian to play an ace in the vulgarity stakes. I am one of the privileged few who has never seen a member of the Kardashian family on television. I don’t know who she is, what she is or why anybody should pay her one iota of attention. I can’t see why she is considered admirable, beautiful or fascinating in the least. Kim Kardashian exists for me only as two mooning bum cheeks straining against a skien of beaded chiffon.
I am not entirely sure what Kim Kardashian’s husband Kanye West does either over and above offer an arm upon which an atrociously dressed publicity addict can lean. West and Kardashian are I think the line in the sand for me when engaging with contemporary popular culture. I was brought up with Taylor and Burton and cannot invest a shred of interest in a bum and a goon.
Shooting fish in a barrel calls to mind when clapping eyes on Jennifer Lopez sashaying down the red carpet at the Met Ball. Versace went far and above the call of duty in fashioning a frock that left her derriere entirely exposed like a startled baboon at Chessington Zoo. Does this smack of desperation ever so slightly tightly? When a star begins to fall one can always rely on the fashion industry to provide a bag of rhinestones and a glue gun that will prove said performer is still worth at least one more picture.
The Met Ball is a great leveller. Very few guests remain on the A list. Clever Anna Wintour is the ring master only because, like Pope Francis, she has negotiated herself into a position of infallibility. Film stars and producers don’t fear the critics any more. It is Anna Wintour who has made herself the successor to Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. You will never hear her criticise the guest list of the Met Ball even if Miley Cyrus turned up in pasties and a G-string as long as it’s Gucci. Bad taste won’t get you struck off but failure probably will. Fame is the currency at the Met Ball not fashion.
As far as fashion is concerned, the Met Ball is a major sales opportunity. Watching Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott striking a pose with his model Katy Perry both wearing graffiti print black tie was a case in point. Thanks to Scott’s obsession with cartoons he has negotiated Moschino into the position of being the Chanel of the teen and tween generation. The girls and boys all want Moschino cartoon accessories. Katy Perry as a human cartoon is the perfect muse.
Those of us howling about bad taste, tackiness and vulgarity miss the point entirely. Classical good taste doesn’t get you a million likes on Facebook darling. Better to come as the back half of a pantomime cow – or in the case of Sarah Jessica Parker as the Demon Queen in a provincial production of Aladdin – than for the cameras to stop click-click-clicking. I am laying odds on who will be the first to stride down the red carpet bare breasted. My money is on Rihanna or Rita Ora. Say it’s a tribute to Josephine Baker and the fashion world will erupt with excitement and applause. Fashion has nothing to do with clothing anymore. Fashion? That’s entertainment.